Master of global affairs students’ summer practicums have evolved into virtual experiences, yet students will continue to work with international partner organizations after successfully transforming their project plans to accommodate remote work.
“Student teams and partners entered into this challenging time with renewed energy, commitment and creativity,” said Tracy Kijewski-Correa, co-director of the Integration Lab (i-Lab). “We could not be more pleased with the result.”
During the spring semester, students modified their project proposals to transform their summer research into a virtual mode, Kijewski-Correa said. “For some students, this meant discovering new ways to collect data through surrogates on the ground. For others, it tested their creativity in facilitating virtual engagements with key informants around the globe.” For example, some research teams are using platforms such as Jamboard and Miro to create digital brainstorming walls across continents. Other teams are reimagining traditional focus groups, creating WhatsApp group chats to exchange ideas and answer questions.
Students enrolled in the sustainable development and global affairs concentrations are working with organizations including Catholic Relief Services, Resilient Waters, Harvard Medical School’s Program in Global Surgery and Social Change, Enseña Chile, Chemonics, and Corning, Inc. Student teams are researching health care access, sustainable natural resource management, education system reform, air pollution, private sector engagement in development, and refugee resettlement.
“As students, we have had our flexibility and patience tested to the limits and as a result have become more adaptable, more creative, and gained a broad skill set,” said Kara Venzian, part of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) student team. “Of course I wish we could conduct this research in person, but my team’s safety and the safety of the communities come first.”
Students on the CRS team are working with people in refugee settlements in Uganda and Myanmar, developing a framework for a holistic understanding of the concept of home.
“We are using virtual data collection methods and employing local Ugandans in our research, further emphasizing the localization that our partner was looking for and the sustainability that we had always hoped for,” Venzian said. “With the world and the international development sector becoming ever more virtual as the technology develops to conduct efficient remote research, I am grateful that in a time with such high unemployment rates, we are able to continue with business as usual. The i-Lab has provided us not only with invaluable work experience, but with some stability in these trying times.”
Students enrolled in the international peace studies concentration are set to begin their six-month internships virtually in July with organizations including the World Bank, Catholic Relief Services, Refugees International, the War Prevention Initiative at the Jubitz Family Foundation, the Owl and Panther, the Africa Faith and Justice Network, the Colibri Center for Human Rights, Search for Common Ground and the Center for Science and Security Studies – King’s College London. Students may be able to begin on-site work later in the summer depending on university, organizational and local health policy regarding COVID-19.
“Our students have shown flexibility and resilience, launching new searches for internships in late spring when we recognized that international internships would not be possible,” said Jennifer Betz, assistant director of the international peace studies concentration. “Their hard work, the understanding of our international partners, and the openness of new domestic partner organizations have made this difficult transition much easier. We are grateful and looking forward to the new opportunities and partnerships.”
Master of global affairs students will be posting firsthand accounts of their summer experiences on the Keough Insider, a Keough School blog. Please follow along!